FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After years of planning and months of construction the Vietnam War Memorial Wall replica has officially been revealed.
Located at the Veterans National Memorial Shrine & Museum, thousands turned out to attend the unveiling on Saturday.
“It’s about time,” Vietnam veteran Jim Derr said. “A lot of us came back and they called us nasty names and threw eggs at us and now we get to pay our respects to the ones who didn’t make it back.”
After a flyover by a military aircraft, speakers took turns commemorating Memorial Day and the team effort it took to organize, plan and build the wall. Some speakers became overcome with emotions as they delivered their speeches based on their experiences while serving. Veterans Eric Johnson and Pat Fraiser led the ceremony and introduced each speaker. Speakers included:
- Mark Hagerman- Chairman Emeritus Hagerman Group
- Doug McKibben- President and CEO of Glenbrook Automotive Group
- Nelson Peters- Allen County Commissioner
- Urban Ley- Superintendent of Crosby Excavating
After the playing of ‘Taps’ the crowd turned their attention to the wall to watch the big reveal.
“It really is emotional not only having the wall but having the helicopters here,” Veteran and Veteran National Memorial Shrine & Museum organizers Eric Johnson said. “A lot of guys came back and didn’t get a pat on the back and they didn’t get a parade like World War II or anything of that. They didn’t get thanked properly so anytime we have an event like this I think its a way of thanking veterans.”
The final aluminum panels were installed by sheet metal union members and apprentices from Smart Local 20 earlier this month. The panels bear the names of all veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War. Of the names, 1534 are from the state of Indiana, and 79 are from Allen County.
Two Vietnam War-era military helicopters landed in Fort Wayne ahead of the dedication ceremony.
The Huey 369 and 803 helicopters landed around noon Friday at the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum on O’Day Road. They were piloted by Tom Agness, who flew helicopters in the Vietnam War, and John Walker, who was a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Marines.
The helicopters were featured in Saturday’s dedication ceremony at the memorial shrine before it began. Attendees can take a ride in the choppers for a donation fee, which goes towards supporting the museum.